Sunday, November 26, 2006

Breathtaking

Look at this and tell me you don't say "Aaah" and feel the cool, calm infuse your mind.

Mother Nature is glad to provide for your well being with the help of the intrepid folks atop Mount Washington.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

What Do You Get When You Cross the Energizer Bunny with….

  • A nurse
  • An artist
  • A Realtor®
  • And a TypeE visionary…all in one person?

You get my friend, Margaret.

Anyone who already knows this extraordinary woman understands. The rest of this is for people who haven't yet met Margaret Rome. You are in for a treat.

We met almost 20 years ago when she was a ceramic artist just beginning her transformation into a highly successful real estate professional, and I was an accountant/computer consultant. In our first phone conversation she invited me to her studio, and I was struck by her openness and desire to share. What I didn't realize then was that the givingness of this woman is her hallmark.

A few months later I needed help selling my condo but didn't think I could afford to use a Realtor – it was not a happy time financially for me. Margaret stepped in declaring "you can't afford not to use me," and proved it by selling my home for more than I expected. I'm pleased that years later my story became an article on her blog, a blog that exists because she saw the potential of the "I Blog For You" idea.

There isn't enough space on Blogger's server for me to talk about the many ways she has had a positive effect on my life, often just by being who she is. If I sent out a call for anyone Margaret has helped to meet in Baltimore, I believe we could fill Ravens Stadium. And so for every one of them – and myself – I say "Thank you for being my friend."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

Back in September I wrote an article on this and my other blog about philanthropy. It was triggered by the generous givings of Richard Branson and Warren Buffett. And now, with the seasons of giving bearing down on us, my mailbox overflows with desperate pleas from charitable organizations. "Please help the… [insert category of needy – two-footed, four-footed, winged, finned, environmental, or service.]" From the very local to the intergalactic, I'm on their list. And so my recycling bin overflows, too.

Had I Gates' billions they might all get checks. But I don't, and so I choose those causes that seem to me to make the kind of difference I believe in, and where most of my dollars go to the purpose of the charity rather than its administration. On New Year's Eve I will write checks and make online donations to a number of such nonprofits.

But what about the rest of the year? OK, today is a memorable day for me, so I've decided to commemorate it with more than a celebratory lunch. I want to also honor some of the people who have reached out their hands and thoughts to me, and helped me take those steps that have changed my life for the better.

Here's the deal. Each time I profile one of these special people on this blog, I will make a donation to Heifer International in their honor. I choose Heifer because they also help people improve their lives. Recipients of animals from Heifer receive training and support, but also agree to pass on the gift by sharing the animals' offspring with others in need in their community. Thus, the gift of self-reliance and self-esteem multiplies and spreads through the village, whether it's in Albania or Appalachia.

When you go to Heifer's website, click on "The most important gift catalog in the world." There you'll see all the animals – and trees and bees – you can select. Personally, I'm partial to llamas and sheep because of the wonderful fibers that come from their fleece. So today, to kick this off, I'm giving a share of a llama in honor of all my friends and family. Here's the gift card I chose for you all....

And starting on Thanksgiving Day, I will profile one special person a week for the rest of the year. To honor each one I will choose something from the Heifer catalog that seems to suit them and what they've done for me and others. I sure hope they like their "gifts"!

Who will you honor today?

Note: All photos are copyright Heifer International, and come from either their online media resources or, in the case of the gift card image, from the electronic card I selected.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Autumn...Incomplete

Crystalline sky the color of "Dutchman's breeches" as my mother would say. Just enough breeze to tease the remaining gold and bronze leaves from the tree out front. It's a glorious fall morning in Maryland. And so I spent some time raking semi-dry leaves, lifting rakefulls into a black plastic bag, and thinking about this corner season.

Winter is dark and crackly cold at best, leaden gray at worst. Summer brings the heat and humidity that make breathing difficult and turn car interiors into people-cooking ovens. But at the corners we find the cycle of life, the birth/rebirth of spring and the languorous death of autumn.

Come March and April the trees spring to life, and birds hold multi-lingual morning convocations. October sets the landscape ablaze until November's snap colds and brisk winds tear the landscape clean. The air now has the musty scent of dead leaves. Kira the cat finds it irresistible; leaves we've tracked in become skittering prey for her games.

How can this ancient cycle be incomplete? My nose knows. Missing from the mix is the one smell that means fall is almost over. Before air pollution regulation, the reward for raking leaves into the street was the sight and smell of an oak/maple funeral pyre. There was an art to it passed through the generations, father to son, son to daughter.

You needed good dry material so that flames would leap from the top of your leaf cone. A few damp leaves were OK, but too many would produce a slow, smoky, and unsatisfying burn. A little breeze to keep the fire going, but not so much that half-burned leaves would fly off the pile and start mini-burns in the neighborhood. When you got it right, you felt connected to nature and the unending cycle.

I agree with the rule about no open burning. But on days like this, my nostalgia takes over and I yearn for one more perfect fall afternoon spiced with the scent of leaves returning to the dust we all share.